by cheri sabraw
I’v been re-reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
This time around, I have taken with me a little piece of carry-on luggage that opens easily. Inside, a piece of weathered parchment is inscribed with the following message:
Look in instead of looking out.
This short directive is a beautiful idea, one that will remove grief, disappointment, anger, and fear.
What does it mean?
The Buddhist master who authored this book rendered this interpretation, paraphrased:
Looking out is about ego.
Looking in is about being attentive to enlightenment.
I spend too much time concerned about whether or not I am meeting expectation. Am I the right wife? the right mother? the right daughter? the right friend? the right grandmother? the right student?
Such mental frenzy is all about looking out, concerned that not meeting expectation will result in loss. At its core, it is about being alone in the world.
I’ve begun to look in more often. Looking in ironically takes you away from self.
Looking in toward an enlightenment of soul begins the process of getting away from self ( my wardrobe, my reputation, my nails, my bank account, my big fat persona, my career, my writing…the list goes on like switchbacks down a steep ravine.)
Gradually, the ego settles down, surrendering to what cannot be controlled. The self contents itself with the way things just are. Whether or not someone acknowledges you, remembers you, or admires you become secondary to your goal: to focus on a life of compassion, good deeds, and thoughtfulness.
Whenever your breath is quick, your muscles tight, your jaw set, or your hands clenched, you are looking out.
When your words are gentle and your intentions pure, you are looking in.
It’s as simple (not) as that.